A.W. Tozer once said, “The final test of love is obedience.” This is such a profound truth, yet one that is consistently overlooked or ignored in our modern version of Christianity. Ours is an era of “cheap grace”, meaning salvation is ours for the asking and requiring no more of us than the request itself. Following Jesus requires more than mere belief that He is the Son of God; it requires more than believing He was crucified and rose from the dead. Even demons believe this (James 2:19)! To be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, we must not only believe, but also be madly in love with Jesus. And the final test of love is obedience.
Archives for October 2013
I heard Dr. Brene Brown speak at a conference I recently attended. During her talk she made the statement that, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” That’s a great mantra for anyone, but I think it is particularly appropriate for the Western church today. Many ministries are doing incredible, life-changing, and brave things; they are taking a risk and engaging the world around them. Other churches are content to wallow in their comfort; they risk little and therefore affect little. Sadly, looking at the general landscape and direction of Christianity in America and Europe, it would appear the comfort seekers far outnumber their courageous counterparts.
The difference between the comfortable and the courageous is the sum total of the people within each group. Courageous churches are filled with courageous people, while comfortable churches are filled with comfortable people. Which church are you helping to build? There is nothing comfortable about being a follower of Jesus. He warned us that a life spent following Him would be difficult and uncomfortable (Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:57-62; Matthew 10:32-39). If you are casually or comfortably following Christ, you may want to check your ticket and make sure you are on the right bus. What a tragedy to spend your entire life thinking you were known by Christ, only to discover in the end He never knew you (Matthew 7:21-23).
We are called to be a courageous people. We have been gifted to accomplish impossible tasks for the glory of God’s Kingdom. Why then do we crave and cling to comfort? We weren’t designed for this, which means Satan is having a field day convincing us otherwise. I believe the vast majority of us would intellectually prefer courage over comfort, but emotionally we side with comfort. Courage is enticing, but comfort is familiar. Comfort is safe and predictable, and we like that. Courage, on the other hand, moves us out of our comfort zone and encourages us to do things we never dreamed possible. Which of those attitudes sounds more like that of Jesus?
Billions of people are dying without knowing Jesus. The job before us is monumental. Our mission is to take the love of Jesus to each and every soul on this planet (Matthew 28:18-20). The odds are daunting, and we will not overcome them while maintaining our level of comfort. It will take courageous activity to share God’s love with so many.
Being courageous for Jesus means to stop worrying what others think and start doing what Jesus told us to do. Being comfortable means you probably won’t need to change anything about your life. It’s easier, for certain, but who wants to meet Jesus and tell Him how comfortable you were down on earth? What are you not doing for Jesus? What have you not given up for His sake? What is more important in your life than He is? It’s time to get rid of all of it. It’s time to set aside your comfort so He can do what He intends through you. It’s time to be courageous.
As has been posited by many (perhaps most notably by Donald Kraybill and Greg Boyd), the Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom. If you want to be first, you must be last. If you want to be rich, you must give it all away. And if you want to find self-fulfillment, you must practice self-denial. It seems quite backwards to us because we have become accustomed to thinking in terms of our own culture instead of the ways of God’s Kingdom. But if we will truly embrace these principles, we will find peace and fulfillment unlike anything we have ever known.
I think Christians are better at rationalizing than any other people on earth. It’s easy for us to come up with explanations and excuses why we aren’t living the life God created us to live. We wait to “feel led” and diligently “seek our calling”. We’ll do about anything to avoid doing what Jesus told us to do. If the time we spent running away from our mission was employed actually working for the mission, we might just have completed it by now. Unfortunately the comforts and the cares of this life keep us from selling out and going all in for Christ.
I recently heard a song by Kari Jobe called, “We Are”. The lyrics say, “We are the light of the world/ We are the city on a hill”. Combined with the beautiful melody, it was very moving. Then I began to reflect a bit more and do what I do best: ask questions. As Christians, are the lives we lead really lighting up the world? Are we truly a beacon in the darkness? How many believers listen to songs like the one mentioned above, feel good about the message, and then carry on with their lives as usual? It’s the modern equivalent of always hearing but never understanding (Matthew 13:14). We don’t put our faith into action, or more specifically, we are ever learning but never doing.